Internet entrepreneurs want to know what they have to do to drive quality traffic to their website. Web directories are a resource you can use to drive traffic and create backlinks for SEO. Like most marketing and link building strategies, people have different opinions on the quality of web directories. Instead of listening to opinions, you need to know the ins and outs of directories. Knowing what works and what doesn’t will help you decide if they are right for you.
What is a Web Directory?
A web directory is a resource that organizes links to websites. Most are manually submitted by users. The organization of a web directory is intended to help other users find sites relevant to a specific niche.
Web directories are often used as a substitute to search engines. The key difference is that a search engine helps users find content relevant to a specific set of keywords, while directories help users find content relevant to a given category. Some web directories specialize in providing links to websites in a specific niche, such as business, medical or technology.
What Can Web Directories Do for You?
Web directories provide two major benefits to users: driving relevant traffic to their website and improving search engine rankings. People may visit web directories with the intention of finding lists of websites. As effective as search engines are at finding relevant content, it could take hours to build a massive list of websites for a niche you are looking for. You would have to experiment with dozens of search terms and have to deal with the frustration that the same high-ranking sites dominate the front page for numerous keywords.
If your visitors are looking to build a short list of highly relevant content, they would probably use a search engine. On the other hand, if they are looking for a number of sites in a category of their interest, they would probably explore directories instead.
As a website owner, you may have chosen a few very specific keywords to optimize your website for. You may be a web designer who specializes in Drupal templates for entertainment sites. You may get some relevant traffic from that keyword in Google.
However, you may want to also target website owners who are looking for a much more general category. If you submit your site to a web directory, you can find visitors who are specifically interested in web design. Alternatively, you could submit to other web directories under categories such as music or entertainment. This will clearly help you reach a different audience than you would reach with a search engine.
Web directories can also provide highly relevant, anchored, dofollow backlinks to your website for SEO purposes. Depending on the type of site, they may provide a lot of value for you in the search engines.
Are Web Directories Less Valuable Than They Used to Be?
The value of web directories has degraded since the advance of Web 2.0. In earlier years, web directories were helpful because search engines were easily manipulated by black hat marketers. They provided a lot of useless results and users often turned to directories to get information that was more relevant and useful.
As search engine algorithms changed, users became more accustomed to using search engines to find the information they were looking for. Even as far back as 2002, some web professionals said their clients were seeing much less traffic from popular directories such as DMoz. Over time, the traffic stagnated even further.
Some people still use directories to find resources. However, the traffic is much less than it used to be.
Search engines used to think very highly of backlinks coming from online directories. As websites began to exploit them and many of them became more like link farms, the search engines put less value on them. Many directories are still counted as trusted backlinks, but they don’t provide as much value as they used to.
Another issue is that most active directories are much smaller these days. DMoz used to be a big factor. Website owners believed that the success of their website hinged on getting accepted into their listings. Today, DMoz has been almost abandoned. Almost the only way to get your site listed is if you volunteer to become an editor yourself. Submitting your sites to many of the smaller directories will provide little or no value.
Strategies for Using Web Directories
Web directories can still be worth using, but you need to make sure you are strategic with them. A few things you should keep in mind:
- Check the quality of the directory. What is the page rank and Alexa of the directory? Ideally, I target directories that have at least a page rank of 4. There are thousands of directories on the Internet, but many of them rank so poorly you won’t get any benefit out of them. You would just be wasting the time it takes to fill out the submission forms. Another thing to look at is the quality of the sites the directory accepts. Listen to the words of Matt Cutts, chief technology developer at Google. He says that it is okay to submit to web directories, provided they limit their listings to quality sites. He discourages website owners from using free for all directories that take anyone who submits.
- Stay away from link exchanges. There is only one thing worse than getting a backlink from a website that has little or no value. That is doing a link exchange with such a site. Google looks at these link exchanges as blackhat strategies and seriously penalizes any website engaging in them. Only go for one way links.
- Be careful what categories you submit to. Many categories are littered with hundreds or even thousands of other sites. You will have a hard time reaching visitors if your link is a needle in a haystack. Also, you won’t get nearly as much page rank if your site share the page with many other outgoing links.
- Avoid automated submission tools. There are a number of tools online that will let you push a button and submit to thousands of directories at once. These tools may be tempting, but they are another black hat tool that can penalize you. Also, legitimate directories are probably much less likely to approve of a listing that has been submitted via an automated system.
Should You Still Use Web Directories?
Web directories still provide some value for websites. You need to decide if it is worth spending your time using them. Compare the value of web directories with other link building and promotional tools such as guest blogging, commenting and communities such as forums and social networking sites. One thing is for sure. Even though web directories still have some value, they are not nearly as helpful as they were in years past.